Dutch government buys single Rembrandt painting for €150 million

Last night, outgoing culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven pledged €150 million for the purchase of Rembrandt’s painting, ‘De Vaandeldrager’ or ‘The Standard Bearer’ (1636), which will tour go on tour in each of the Dutch provinces. 

And just to clarify, this isn’t coming from Ingrid’s own funds — nee, this amount will be paid by the Dutch government. 

An insane amount of money

On top of the €150 million, an additional €15 million has been pledged by the Rijksmuseum Fund and the Rembrandt Association, making this the largest amount the state has paid to buy back a single work of art, reports de Volkskrant.  

READ MORE | Fallen painting leads to discovery of new Rembrandt masterpiece

Rembrandt’s masterpiece has been in the possession of several major private collectors for centuries, from England’s King George IV to the Rothschild family. However, after almost 200 years of ownership by the Rothschild’s and as art historian Wouter Kloek says, thanks to “an insane amount of money,” the painting will, at last, be in the hands of the Dutch again!

Rijksmuseum director declares victory 🎊  

Rijksmuseum director Taco Dibbits regards the purchase as a ‘unique opportunity‘, as he believes it is the single most important of Rembrandt’s paintings still privately held. 

Additionally, the painting depicts a scene from the Dutch War of Independence, and is thus a historically significant piece, claims Dibbits.

But not everyone agrees..

Volkskrant art critic Wieteke van Zeil is not convinced, she’s waged several critiques at the rather hasty — and exceedingly expensive — move. 

For one, van Zeil argues that the was decision made in the absence of a public debate, for a sum that totals more than 10 times the total spending budget of all museums of the Netherlands combined! Many of which are struggling to stay open two years into the pandemic. 

READ MORE | Decolonising Dutch museums: stolen heritage to be returned?

Van Zeil also finds the historical relevance claim a bit overdone. She says that while the job of standard-bearer was indeed one of honour for elite members of the militia, Rembrandt used himself as a model.

This makes the painting yet another self-portrait to be added to the four portraits the Rijksmuseum currently displays, bringing the total number of Rembrandts at the museum to 24.

Not to mention Baron James de Rothschild only bought the painting for a mere £840 at an auction in London in 1840! 

Is this a total waste of money or are you happy to see more Rembrandt’s returned to the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments! 

Feature Image: De Vaandeldrager/Rijksmuseum

Caitlin Elston-Weidinger 🇩🇪🇺🇸
Caitlin Elston-Weidinger 🇩🇪🇺🇸
Though Caitlin was born in Berlin, she was raised between the beaches of Florida and mountainous Oregon but has opted for a university career in the cosy Netherlands. Four years into her Dutch journey, you’ll find Caitlin ranting about politics, upcycling jewellery for her online store, or roaming around with her analogue camera.


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